In the first comprehensive documentary to chronicle the private life and public career of Joan Baez, American Masters examines her history as a recording artist and performer as well as her remarkable journey as the conscience of a generation.
Following Baez on her 2008/2009 world tour, the filmmakers captured Baez in performance as well as in intimate conversations with individuals whose lives parallel hers. From a stop in Sarajevo, Bosnia to revisit the scene of Joan’s courageous trip to that war-torn city in the middle of the 1993 siege, to Nashville, Tennessee, where she joined Steve Earle to talk about their collaboration on Joan’s 2008 Grammy-nominated album Day After Tomorrow, the film allows viewers an unprecedented level of access to Ms. Baez.
Shot in high definition with a natural, filmic look, Joan is also joined on screen by, David Crosby, Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn and Reverend Jesse Jackson, among others, to illuminate this extraordinary life. Rich historical archival footage – Baez’ controversial visit to North Vietnam, where she is seen praying with the residents of Hanoi during the heaviest bombing of the war; Martin Luther King Jr. outside a California prison where he visited Joan to offer his support after she was jailed for staging a protest; Joan at her first Newport Folk Festival in 1959 and Joan as a teenager performing at the historic Club 47 – is woven into the story so viewers can experience scenes from Joan’s life that have never been uncovered.
The grit of the film is Baez’ power as a musician – from her tentative teenage years in the Cambridge, Mass coffee houses to her emergence onto the world stage and the 50-year career that followed – Joan Baez is a musical force of nature and this film captures her strength as a performer and the influence she has brought to bear on successive generations of artists.